Joseph "Joe" Eugene Kernan (born April 8, 1946) is an American politician who became the Governor of Indiana on September 13, 2003 upon the death of Frank O'Bannon. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1946. Kernan is a member of the Democratic Party. Prior to becoming the governor, he served as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and then as Lieutenant Governor of Indiana. He lost an election to serve an entire term as governor of Indiana to former George W. Bush Office of Management and Budget director Mitch Daniels on November 2, 2004. Kernan returned to South Bend, and retired from politics.
Joe Kernan graduated from St. Joseph's High School in South Bend, Indiana. He graduated in 1968 with a degree in Government from the University of Notre Dame, where he was a resident of Stanford Hall.
Kernan entered the United States Navy in 1969 and served as a Naval Flight Officer aboard the carrier USS Kitty Hawk. In May 1972, Kernan was shot down by the enemy while on a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. He was held as a prisoner of war for 11 months. Kernan was repatriated in 1973 and continued on active duty with the Navy until December 1974. Kernan received the Navy Commendation Medal, two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1974 he married his wife, Maggie.